A Progressive Privatization Plan for Amtrak

A Progressive Privatization Plan for Amtrak

Perhaps rail transportation should be treated as a public good and subsidized by the state. But the hard truth is that Amtrak subsidies are going down and will soon disappear. On September 21, 1995, the House Transportation Committee approved a $712 million annual subsidy for Amtrak until 1998. The subsidy will be cut to $403 million in 1999. Amtrak says that it has an agreement with Congress that its subsidy will be ended by the year 2002. Privatization is no longer a theoretical subject for right-wing economists or young Republicans. Job security, potential growth, the very possibility of a passenger railroad in the United States—all depend on finding a different way of structuring Amtrak. If one accepts the notion that the United States will certainly not have a more liberal president than Bill Clinton before the year 2001, and recognizes that increased funding for Amtrak has not been a priority even for the Clinton administration, then one arrives at a tough conclusion: we had better start talking about the future of Amtrak or there will be no future. But this challenge is also an opportunity—to work out what I want to call a social form of privatization. Here is a plan to rescue Amtrak that takes account of the interests of citizens, the riding public, Amtrak’s employees, and their unions.

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